Breathing Life into Living History

Those of you who know me know I have a special place in my Producer’s heart for history and the telling of America’s story through music, words and media. In some ways it’s easier to put a show on stage like FOUR PART HARMONY  or CELEBRATE AMERICA than it is apply the principals of theatre to the purpose of teaching in the context of an historic attraction. 

For some years now the museum audience has challenged the norms; as audiences change they need to be taught using the technologies of the day but perhaps beyond that, those of us who have a passion for history need to remind ourselves that the larger part of the word “history” is STORY. Seems simple and yet for whatever reason, some days it seems as if we are willing to settle for detailing dates and names instead of the meaning and context that can only come from narrative thinking and communication - in other words: a story.

Stories come in all forms and shapes, from screeds to novels, scripts to comic books a story is a series of interconnected moments in time that when taken together form an arc with its own pacing and tempo, structure and message. A story can be visual or audio; text or data but it’s always temporal and plays out over time and space. 

Animation is a great metaphor for all kinds of story; each individual moment, or frame is a moment in time that combines with every other moment and when viewed against a fixed timeline it comes to life; coupled with music and dialogue and artistic embellishment it becomes a tale all its own and artfully done can communicate facts, ideas and emotion.

The same thing is true with any presentation including, perhaps most especially those given in the actual space where history was made, historic attractions. Think of it this way: 

Each room is a scene - the space was occupied by characters as rich as any that a playwright could conjure - the audience, your guests, play the same role they do in live theatre by engaging, listening and reacting to what you say - how you deliver your content, as a list or as a well constructed story following the simple principles of good storytelling can make the difference between a perfunctory “rite of passage” (“….really we should take the kids to Jamestown because it’s important….then we can get barbeque……”) and an immersive, engaging and memorable experience.

It’s true that there are new tools at our disposal including augmented reality, dimensional data and an unending litany of applications for digital mobile but in the end, what will save the day is an unrelenting focus on personalized storytelling that can inspire young minds, inform contemporary thinking and make History a lifelong passion that celebrates our past while helping us to navigate the future for generations to come.

Doug Minerd has produced shows, educational programming and events for more than 30 years for some of America’s best known, loved and enduring attractions. His penchant for American History has found expression in major works, including “Celebrate America” (Branson MO) and “Four Part Harmony” (Richmond/off-Broadway NYC) a musical drama that tells the true story of American POW’s and their wives during the Vietnam War. For this work he was honored by nam-POW's Inc. for “outstanding contribution to the arts and to the history of the Vietnam Prisoner of War experience”.

©2017 Minerd Music Works llc